Blog: Saturday, 8:47 p.m. " It’s harder than it looks | SummitDaily.com

Blog: Saturday, 8:47 p.m. " It’s harder than it looks

DEVON O'NEIL
summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado, 80424

The thing I can’t get over at the Extremes is how easy some of these guys and girls make it look. They make you think that what they’re doing is like putting on socks in the morning, or feeding the dog.

But any old homey cannot do this sort of thing and expect to live. Or at least expect to escape without major, six-month-recovery-type injury.

It got to be so routine this week that I made conscious attempts to realize the risk. These people drop in to terrain that would make plenty of your average skiers crap in their thermals if you even put them at the top and asked them to look down. The athletes don’t just drop in, either; they’re moving at warp speed right from the start.

Then it becomes: Carve a turn, huck a rock, land like you never left the ground, repeat.

Perhaps the most incredible part in my eyes is the speed control they exhibit. Saturday on Headwall, for instance, there was so little snow in the upper section that the competitors had to carry huge amounts of speed into their jumps just to clear all the knife-edge rocks below them. Thanks to gravity, they were going even faster when they landed ” on a 40-degree pitch filled with moguls because everyone else makes their turns by the yard, instead of by the quarter-mile.

I’m not sure if these guys are just so good that they don’t get scared, or if they’re just so good that their skiing can hide their fear. Whatever the case, everybody seems to expect it at this competition, just like we expect to see 95 mph fastballs at Yankee Stadium.

Here are a few moments that contributed most to my impression of this event:

” Tyson Bolduc’s graceful, 360-degree spin off a 30-foot air that carried him over an entire cliff band Saturday. When he landed, he landed on one ski, off balance; the other ski was stuck at an oblique angle off to his side, and he wasn’t able to bring it back to the ground for a full second. But he never wavered.

” Scott McBrayer’s enormous spread eagle Friday on Staircase. Nobody had hit this 12-foot rock until McBrayer, and when he hit it he did so in a good fourth gear, dropping at least 30 feet into trees.

” Aaron Estrada’s first run down Staircase. Everyone here impressed me, but Estrada’s run that day was on a different level. It was as pure a display of talent as I have ever seen in any sport.

***

Rode the lift Friday with Kent Hyden of Utah, the eventual eighth-place finisher, and noticed he was skiing Fat-ypus D-Senders, the brand based in Breckenridge. Considering how well Hyden skied this week, good move on the local boys’ part to pick him up.

***

Quote of the Week, from Ben Furimsky, a nine-time Extremes competitor: “I’ve crashed every year. I’m kinda famous for that. I’ve broken seven teeth, busted a hand, knocked myself out.”

Runner-up, from Ryan Sutton, a Crested Butte local who consistently took lines nobody else thought of: “I was willing to hit rocks. And that’s pretty much what I do every day, anyway.”

***

Ran into Tom Stillo on Saturday, a wiley old photographer who has been shooting the Extremes since the first one in 1992. I asked him how much it has changed, and he said: “I don’t think it’s changed all that much, to be honest with you.”

***

Some crowds just know when to cheer, how loud to cheer for each competitor, each line, each run … and this was one of them.

***

Stat of the Week: Only once did ski patrol take a competitor down on a toboggan. That was Thursday in the men’s qualifying round; John Rutherford of Seattle fractured a vertebrae when he hit a tree. He told me Saturday night that he hopes to compete again on March 20.


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